Does playing violin help more with technique or ear training?

If you have played violin, which part of it transferred to guitar playing for you?
I'm considering picking it up as my kids are learning... would it detract from guitar playing or help?


Silver Supporting Member
Wow ... interesting question ...
can't wait to read the replys by those who have played or play violin!


Silver Supporting Member
I was in a bluegrass band with a banjo player that had grown up playing viola. He had a very sharp ear for tuning (the banjo drove him insane, lol), both with our instruments and our harmony vocals. He helped me sharpen my ear for it, working with him. Technique-wise, the classical viola background seemed to lead him to be a bit too formal for bluegrass, he always looked like a surgeon about to operate on his strings. :)
I'm not much of a violinist, but I found it tough. The orientation of the instrument is odd for a guitarist. Cello makes a lot more sense: the feel is relatable to us and the scale length is similar.

If you want to get better at guitar technique, practice guitar. Ear training? Do ear training exercises.


Nearly zero transfer for technique.

Some transfer for ear, but since the tuning is different, it can also be disorienting as far as where your fingers are finding notes across the strings.

Basically, there are better ways to do both for guitar players.


Senior Member
Not much transfers as anderson110 said. I've played both for 40 years and the biggest benefit I think is timing. The violin, especially when played at country/bluegrass speed takes considerable attention to speed/tempo. Violin is a great instrument and you'll get great satisfaction from learning it. I've played everything from huge audiences to small clubs to jam sessions. Hit a lick on the guitar and nobody hardly notices. Drag the fiddle out and people go nuts.


Silver Supporting Member
Some of the best guitar readers I know of started as violin players.


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I have played a little violin, but taught myself after learning guitar and mandolin (taught myself those too).
Mandolin is a kind of half-way point between guitar and violin: frets and picking-strumming, like guitar, same tuning as violin.
Violin is certainly good for ear-training, but otherwise there's not a lot of advantage transferrable to guitar. To mandolin, yes!

(I'm speaking purely of technique. I'm sure Ken is right about reading: violinists have to learn to read notation, and that's a useful skill for any musician. Personally I could read before I started learning guitar, and always found it invaluable.)

With mandolin and violin, the strings are like the bottom 4 of guitar upside down (G-D-A-E bottom to top), so chord shapes (on mandolin) are often like upside down versions of guitar chords (ignoring the B-E strings). Eg, a G chord is this:

E 3
A 2
D 0
G 0

IOW, if your kids are learning violin - and you're a guitarist wanting to play along with them or join them in some way - I'd say get yourself a mandolin! (They can easily transfer their violin skills to that too.)
I took up viola, which looks like a larger violin and is tuned a 5th lower, after I took up guitar.

I don't feel like there has been any carryover from viola to guitar, other than improved music reading skills from playing in community orchestras. There are violinists out there who have little or no reading skill, btw, they are known as "fiddlers". ;) If you are learning to fiddle rather than play classical violin, you are not guaranteed to become a better music reader.

If you take up the violin/fiddle, it would be better if you did it because you actually have a desire to sound good playing it - for its own sake - not because you think it will somehow make you a better guitarist. And yes its true, one note on the violin/fiddle will generate more of an emotional response from most listeners than 10 notes on a guitar. I get asked to play with people because I can play one or two notes with passable vibrato and intonation, not because I can shred like Jascha Heifetz.


Don't know about violin ... I would imagine slide guitar would have a similar benefit if there is one ear wise.


Silver Supporting Member
played violin for 8 years classically... it is ridiculously difficult. But to the OP!...

Hand motions become cleaner ie vibrato, hammeron/pulloffs-

Reading and ear training are huge benefits for me.


I played violin fairly seriously for about 20 years. Concertmaster of my college orchestra, etc. I've found that ear training, musicality and general coordination between your hands/fingers carries over (all of which are huge) but having violin tuning G/D/A/E drilled into your head is frustrating. In addition, fingering technique is completely different. Another huge thing that carries over is being able to read music. Although I'm terrible at the guitar I can look at any piece of music and it makes sense, even though I have no hope of being able to play it. One last thing is practice habits and techniques. With all the carryover I bet I can learn in 1 year what would take me many years had I never played the violin.

Edit - Some of that isn't such a big deal if you already play guitar, but I got carried away.


I played the Oboe all through middle school, high school, college, and on occasion still do, and I can say with complete confidence that it forced me to develop my ear to a level that I would never have known through guitar study alone. You want talk about intonation issues? A guitar is a piece of cake in comparison! Without a highly refined ear an Oboe sounds more like a duck with a head cold.

It is such a sensitive instrument. A couple of little known facts about it; due to it's extremely sensitive nature the Oboe is most often used as the tuning reference in symphonic music. And even more telling is the fact that professional players have their instruments disassembled and have the actual bore holes and key holes painted with extremely thin layers of paint to make minute intonation adjustments. This process is repeated until the instrument is as close to perfect as possible or the musician is as close to bankrupt as possible!

Ok, well anyway you get the idea. Sorry to hijack the discussion and steer us all to symphony land or some place, but it's very infrequent that I have the chance to discuss the Oboe. As far as the violin is concerned, I'm sure that learning to cope with it's inherent difficulties would also serve any musician well. Regardless of the instrument any guitar player could benefit from studying outside of their typical experience. Great discussion topic.
I felt like my eyes were popping out of my head playing high notes on oboe. LOL
I luckily had a friend who helped me fix up the reeds, so I could get something resembling a tone.

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